Cadre deployment lies at the root of our rot

John Steenhuisen says the practice lives on under Ramaphosa, despite his promises to the contrary


3 February 2021

This week, lawyers representing the DA submitted detailed questions to the Zondo Commission on Ramaphosa’s central and ongoing role in state capture, including as head of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee between 2014 and 2018 and as ANC president and SA president now. To end state capture, Ramaphosa must answer for his role in cadre deployment.

If the Zondo Commission fails to tackle and end the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment, then all the problems it has identified will persist.

Until cadre deployment ceases to be a policy of South Africa’s governing party, the country will never have a functional democracy, a healthy economy, or a capable state. No other policy has done more to undermine these.

Consider just the past week’s news cycle: R9 billion of tax payer money syphoned off to the ANC via the State Security Agency; R431 million spent by Gauteng Health Department on “deep cleaning” of schools that was not required or recommended by the Departments of Health or Education; not a single vaccine administered yet when other countries are well into their vaccination programmes; Zuma still living large after two decades of evading accountability for corruption related to the Arms Deal, Nkandla and State Capture; electricity tariff increases from Eskom, which is in a death spiral.

All these have the same root cause: cadre deployment.

Emperor of empty promises and high king of hypocrisy, Ramaphosa wrote in this newsletter last month: "We are committed to end the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage.”

Yet he has appointed corrupt, incapable DD Mabuza to head up SA’s vaccine programme. And “redeployed” Arthur Fraser and David Mahlobo, under whose watch R9 billion was stolen from the State Security Agency, to head Correctional Services and Human Settlements, respectively.

Cadre deployment is as much Ramaphosa’s game as it was Zuma’s, hence state capture lives on long after the Gupta’s departure.

The policy of cadre deployment was formally adopted by the ANC at their 1997 Mafikeng Conference. It aims to “control every lever of power in the state” by loading public institutions with cadres loyal to the ANC, in line with its Marxist ideology of central command and control.

By valuing loyalty to the ANC over competence and loyalty to SA, cadre deployment has caused all the wrong characteristics to become dominant in our state: nepotism, corruption, patronage, impunity, arrogance, chaos and incompetence.

Cadre deployment directly destroys the separation of party and state, an essential component of democracy.

It is that gene in the ANC’s genetic material which has caused corruption and incompetence to spread like a cancer into every single organ of our body politic – even those intended by the Constitution to check and balance executive power such as the NPA, Public Protector and SAHRC. It is the code that long ago set South Africa up for failure.

Cadre deployment is the root cause of all South Africa’s rot: the Arms Deal, State Capture, the destruction of Eskom, SAA, the SABC, Transnet and our other SOEs, our unsustainable national debt, endemic corruption, the complete breakdown of political accountability due to the failure of the NPA, our hopeless Public Protector, our poor handling of the pandemic, our broken policing, health and education systems, and our sky-high levels of unemployment and inequality.

Hundreds of thousands of articles have been written over the years on these and other ANC failures, and yet the DA stands pretty much alone as identifying cadre deployment as the root cause.

Consider this Maverick Citizen editorial this week by Mark Heywood, titled: “Land of glorious impunity – and how to ensure constitutional accountability for public resources”. Heywood lists several ways that accountability could be achieved.

And yet Heywood fails to identify cadre deployment as the root cause of the problem. Even if every single one of his “solutions” is implemented, the problem of impunity will persist until cadre deployment ends. Because cadre deployment is why maladministration and corruption go unpunished.

Cadre deployment has cost South Africans not just our hard-won democracy and trillions in tax revenue lost to corruption, but also lives. Directly, through looting of funds intended for life-saving PPE procurement. And indirectly, because poverty kills.

The great irony is that cadre deployment has happened under the guise of “transformation”. BEE is the mechanism whereby cadres are deployed even in the private sector, to syphon off taxpayer money (by charging a premium on tenders) part of which is redirected to the ANC, or an ANC faction, to entrench its power and access to state resources.

That decision back in 1997 had profound implications for South Africa. It is why we find ourselves here today, almost a quarter century later, with a failed, bankrupt state unable to deliver on even its most basic responsibilities to its citizens yet hellbent on controlling every aspect of our lives.

Either the ANC dumps cadre deployment or South Africa dumps the ANC. Nothing else will tackle the root of the rot. Getting Ramaphosa to explain his role by answering the DA’s questions before the Zondo Commission will expedite the solution, one way or another.

The DA is committed to the liberal democratic principles of separation of party and state, the rule of law, and a social market economy where power resides with the people. The 2021 local government election is your opportunity to promote these principles by supporting the DA.

Warm regards,

John Steenhuisen